[b-hebrew] Hebrew vs. Latin

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sun Oct 28 14:25:47 EDT 2007

On 10/28/07, K Randolph wrote:

> Then there is the claim that a "dead" language, defined as one where
> there are no native speakers, but one still spoken fluently by
> millions for theological and other reasons, will not change, is belied
> by the example of Latin which was a "dead" language according to the
> above definition, yet was spoken by millions fluently for over a
> millennium after it became a "dead" language and it continued to
> change. The fact that it continued to change was instrumental in the
> debate of Martin Luther with John Eck where Luther showed that some of
> the documents written in Latin that Eck depended on were in fact later
> forgeries (the forgers, too, thought that by writing in Latin that a
> document could be passed off as from an earlier time, not recognizing
> that medieval Latin was recognizably different from late imperial
> Latin).

The issue is not that Latin continued to change.  Aside from the fact that I
did not directly contest the statement, I did state that I am rather skeptical
of find morphological changes in Latin that are independent of the native
languages.  That is, if Spanish (or even German, etc) shows a certain
morphological change, then that change in Latin would be a transfer by the
speaker under the influence of his native language.  This doesn't help a
comparison to Hebrew at all, because if we find in Late Biblical Hebrew
developments that are to be traced to the influence of the native language,
and those changes took place in Mishnaic Hebrew, whereas they did not
take place in Aramaic or Greek, we would be forced to conclude that
Mishnaic Hebrew was a spoken (by native speakers!) concurrent language
just like early Spanish or German which similarly influenced Latin.  Thus, in
order to make a useful statement of comparison, some morphological
changes in Latin that are not related to native language developments have
to be demonstrated, because Mishnaic Hebrew does show morphological
developments that are not present in Aramaic or Greek.  This has not been

Yitzhak Sapir

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